A fifth boy was removed Monday from the flooded cave system in northern Thailand, joining four other soccer team members who were rescued Sunday – and leaving seven more youngsters and their coach still inside the cavern, according to reports.
The boy was seen on a stretcher just before 4:30 p.m. local time (5.30 a.m. ET) after the dramatic rescue from the Tham Luang cave complex, according to CNN.
He was expected to be flown to a hospital by helicopter.
Former Chiang Rai Gov. Narongsak Osotthanakorn said the boy’s rescue involved many of the same divers who brought the four boys out Sunday.
“All conditions are still as good as they were yesterday,” he told a news conference. “The boys’ strength, the plan — today we are ready like before. And we will do it faster because we are afraid of the rain.”
An ambulance with flashing lights left the site just hours after the second phase of the perilous rescue operation was launched on Monday.
The ambulance drove toward a helipad, where a chopper was seen taking off shortly after to the cheers of the crowd below.
Rescuers have been rushing to extract the boys, ages 11-16, and their 25-year-old coach from the cave as the annual monsoon bears down on the mountainous region in far northern Chiang Rai province.
Workers have been working around the clock to pump water out of the cave, and authorities said Monday that heavy downpours overnight did not raise water levels inside.
The four boys pulled from the cave Sunday were happy and in good health, authorities said.
“This morning they said they were hungry and wanted to eat khao pad grapao,” Osotthanakorn said, referring to a Thai dish of meat fried with chili and basil and served over rice.
The freed boys are yet to meet their parents, who late Sunday night were yet to be told which of their sons had been removed, according to the UK’s Guardian.
Authorities said a medical team was assessing whether to reunite the boys with their parents soon.
“The medical team is considering whether to let closest relative visit them,” Osotthanakorn said. “It could be a visit through transparent glass rooms. We are discussing this with doctors at the hospital.”
A Thai forestry official said water levels were still declining in the cave due to thousands of pumps operating inside and had not been significantly affected by the intermittent rain of the past 48 hours.
“The water level is not worrisome,” he said, the paper reported.
Authorities declined to say how many boys would be extracted on Monday.
“Maybe after,” he said.
With Post wires